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Beware the UAE Cybercrime Laws


The new Cyber Crimes Laws came into effect in December 2012 (Federal Law No. 5 of 2012) and has recently been published in the media, following the deportation of an Australian National.

The new legislation introduced stronger penalties and new offences that have the ability to impact anyone who does not apply diligence in their online communication.

Offences to be aware of:

While most of the legal provisions involve serious crime, there are some provisions that the general populus need to be aware of.

1. State security and political stability

1(a) Operating a site or posting information online, that stirs sedition, hatred, racism or sectarianism, or hurts national unity or social peace or prejudices public order or public morals;

1(b) Publishing information onlinefor the purpose of harming the status of the State;

1(c) Using an IT system to provide others with information that harms the interests of the state or offending its dignity.

The provisions are quite gereral and will need to be tested in Court for definitions of what conduct may be included. One therefore, needs to exercise caution when posting anything that could be considered by the State to be "harmful" or "offensive".

These laws could impact the ability to speak freely and particularly for activists or those seeking to influence positive change.

2. Morality and proper conduct

Avoid any online communication that:

2(a) may offend religious sanctities or encourage sins;

2(b) Provide portnography, gambling, promote prostitutio/debauchery;

3(c) Slander another person; and

3(d) Breach the privacy of another.

Again, one must exercise cautious diligence when using technology to discuss or comment on matters that may be considered offensive.

Remember that anyone that reads your posts or is in receipt of correspondence from you that they consider offensive or slanderous (even if you do not), can make a police complaint against you.

If convicted, you could be subject to a 500,000 dirham fine, deportation and/or imprisonment.

In practice:

The National reported "The head of the family prosecution service in Abu Dhabi said more people were being ordered to leave the country because they had insulted their spouse on messaging platforms such as WhatsApp.

New light was thrown on the cybercrime law by the case of Jodi Magi, the Australian woman deported from Abu Dhabi after posting offensive remarks with a photo of her neighbour's car in a disabled parking space.

Hussein Abdullah, head of social media at the advisory company Al Sayegh Media, believes too much was made of it. "I see these cases are being blown out of propertion - this is the first case I have heard so much of since social media started here" he said."

The International Business Times reported that a Man faces £42,000 fine for swearing at colleague over WhatsApp and that an American expect "Ryan Pate" was arrested after complaining about his company on facebook.

The provisions offer protection to the population but are also open to abuse and overuse.

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